Priceonomics

Daniel Kopf/Rosie Cima, Priceonomics; Source: Data via BeerMenus.com

The American beer industry is alive and well. The number of breweries is increasing across the country, and with this has come incredible geographic variety in the beers people drink. Depending on where you are in the country, certain local and national beers are much more likely to be on the menu than others.

We analyzed the beer listings of 6,000 bars and restaurants across all 50 states to find out exactly which beers predominate menus in which states. Although the macro brews Bud Light, Miller Lite and Coors Light still rule much of the country, according to our dataset, there are many states and cities where the most available beer is one of the plucky underdogs.

The data also held the answer to a few other questions about beer: Which beers are typically most expensive? Which are the cheapest? In which cities are you most likely to be able to order a PBR? And which cities are the snobbiest about their beer?

Photo by Quinn Dombrowski

For a beer drinker, traveling across the United States means discovering new beers and giving up others. One member of the Priceonomics team recently moved from Minnesota to California, and found the differences in tap lists between the two states as dislocating as the differences in the weather. We were curious if we could quantify and map this difference: Which beers dominate menus in different parts of the country?

We crawled the website BeerMenus, a site at which bars and restaurants can post their drink menus. The dataset includes over 6,000 bars and restaurants with over 20,000 different beers. Only bars and restaurants that submit their listings to BeerMenus are included in the analysis, which means our data is biased towards the kind of places that would put their menu on the internet.

Most Commonly Available Beers by State

The map below displays which beer is found on the most menus in each state -- the color of the state is correlated to the color of the beer. Ties go to whichever brewery is less common nationwide (sorry Bud Light).

Daniel Kopf/Rosie Cima, Priceonomics; Source: Data via BeerMenus.com

The following states had less than 10 restaurants or bars in the dataset, so take their listed beer with a grain of salt (or a shot of Jameson): Alaska, Arkansas, Hawaii, Montana, North Dakota, Nebraska, New Mexico, South Dakota, West Virginia, Wyoming.

Below is a table of each state, their most popular beer, and the percentage of bars and restaurants in the state that serve that beer in our dataset. Example: you can buy Bud Light at 57% of bars and restaurants listed on BeerMenus in Alabama.

Source: Data via BeerMenus.com

As the map shows, the macro brews like Bud Light and Miller Light still have quite the foothold in much of America. They are still by far the most commonly listed beers in the country (though this Budweiser advertisement shows they are clearly concerned about the local competition).

Most Commonly Available Beers by City

We were also curious about the most prevalent beers in the biggest cities in America. Some cities in the same state -- like San Francisco and Los Angeles, or Columbus and Cincinnati -- favor different beers. Below are the most commonly available beers by city. The table includes the 25 cities with the most bar and restaurant listings in our dataset:

Source: Data via BeerMenus.com

Most and Least Expensive Beers

The data on BeerMenus also includes the prices of beers on each menu. From this we could determine the cheapest and most expensive beers. We only analyzed beers that are listed at 10 or more bars or restaurants, and only took data from menus that had been updated in 2013 or more recently. The resulting list of cheapest beers is a murderer's row of frat house favorites.

Source: Data via BeerMenus.com

The most expensive beer list is led by the Lost Abbey Deliverance. The beer is described by the company as “the epic battle being waged between heaven and hell for the souls of mortal men.” The beer, which is deemed “world class” on BeerAdvocate, is also waging a battle on your wallet. All of the beers in this table are served in 12 ounce bottles.

 Source: Data via BeerMenus.com

Which City To Live In If You Absolutely Must Have a PBR

The American hipster holds a special place in his or her heart for Pabst Blue Ribbon (PBR). Perhaps this is because of its industrial look, or its placement in a David Lynch film, but in any case it is the beer for many cool kids on a budget. The hipsters of Madison, Wisconsin and Saint Louis, Missouri are in luck!  In those cities, almost half of the bars in our dataset have PBR. Only cities with over 10 bars or restaurants in our dataset are included.

Source: Data via BeerMenus.com

The Snobbiest Beer Cities

The microbrew revolution has inspired a generation of beer snobs to rival even the haughtiest wine connoisseur. These people wouldn’t be caught dead drinking a Miller Lite, unless there was a heavy degree of irony involved. Beer snobs might be most at home in cities in the west -- particularly Bellingham, Washington -- where popular macro brews are most scarce. The following table shows the 20 cities, with over 10 bar or restaurants in our dataset, least likely to have Bud Light, Miller Lite or Coors Light on the menu.

Source: Data via BeerMenus.com

***

Over the last several decades, the choices available to America’s beer drinkers has increased dramatically. Using data from BeerMenus, our research found an impressive geographic variety in what is available across the United States. While a Californian may have never heard of Sweetwater 420 Extra Pale Ale, Georgians can reasonably expect to have it available to them at most bars and restaurants in their state. As is fitting of this country, the United States of Beer is a land of diversity and surprise.

This post was written by Dan Kopf; follow him on Twitter hereTo get occasional notifications when we write blog posts, please sign up for our email list.


Published Jul 10, 2015


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